i24NEWS – With Iran on its doorstep, Israel kicks off surprise military drill in north

Source: i24NEWS – With Iran on its doorstep, Israel kicks off surprise military drill in nort

Un soldat israélien court pour diriger un véhicule blindé près de la frontière syrienne dans la partie du Golan occupée par Israël le 10 mai 2018 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) kicked off a surprise military exercise in the northern Golan Heights region on Sunday, as Iranian and Iranian-backed forces were reportedly continuing to build along the Israel-Syria border.

“A short while ago, a large-scale surprise military exercise began in the Golan Heights area,” the army said in a statement, adding that it had activated a call-up of reservists as part of the drill.

The status of Iranian forces near the Israeli border has been the subject of numerous conflicting reports in recent weeks, with Israel urging Russia to convince its ally in Tehran to withdraw its forces from the area.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, however, that Iranian and Hezbollah forces have again swept into the Daraa and Quneitra provinces near the Israeli-held Golan Heights, but this time wearing Syrian army uniforms and bearing Syrian government flags.

Several rebel commanders in the region who spoke to the US paper said many of the convoys contained rockets and missiles, likely to spark concern in Israel, which came under attack last month from some 32 rockets it said were fired by Iran.

An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet is seen at an air show at the Hatzerim air base in the Negev desert on December 27, 2017.

The military insisted that the drill was not connected to current developments along the northern front, but rather was “planned in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule.”

IDF units participating in the drill were not told of the exercise in advance, however, in order to test their reaction and conduct for an actual surprise breakout of violence.

The army said that residents of the Golan Heights could expect some explosions to sound as well as an increase in troop movements in the area.

Israel has repeatedly warned it will not accept an entrenched Iranian presence in Syria and is suspected to have carried out numerous raids on Syrian government positions over the years, and last month announced unprecedented strikes on what it said were Tehran-operated bases in Syria.

According to Israeli and independent assessments, there are thousands of foreign pro-government fighters in Syria at Iran’s behest, chiefly drawn from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, which all have large Shia communities.

Iranian officials have not denied their forces were pulling out of the region bordering Israel, but have insisted they are in Syria for the long haul.

Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah has also fought alongside the military of President Bashar Al-Assad ever since an uprising against his family’s decades-long rule slid into a civil war that has raged for some seven years.

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